Dubai: The transition in Steve Smith and Aaaron Finch, Australia’s white ball captain, as they stepped out in their canary yellow shirts at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday was palpable. Shedding their indifferent form in the recent Indian Premier League in the UAE, both senior batsmen scored centuries as the hosts celebrated return of international cricket Down Under with an emphatic 66-run win over India in the first of three One-day Internationals.
The former Australian captain, declared Man of the Match, hit a scintillating 66-ball 105 that took the game away from India while Finch got 114. “Have been searching for something for a couple of months now. About three days ago something just clicked. My rhythm came back, everything came back,” he pointed.
The hosts were off to a great start - thanks to skipper Aaron Finch and David Warner for an opening partnership of 156 runs - and Smith acknowledged the fact that it helped as he could walk out and enjoy himself in the middle.
“Finchy and Davey played very well early on. We could come in and be aggressive. Wasn’t thinking too much out there, just seeing the ball and hitting it,” he said.
Smith admitted that he did take a few risks which paid off and the hosts smiled their way to a 1-0 lead in a match watched by 20,000-odd fans allowed to sit in a socially distanced fashion. “Was seeing the ball well. It was a good surface. I took a few more risks than I would normally. I targeted some bowlers and fortunately, it came off. Nice to contribute to a good win,” he said.
Chasing a mammoth total of 374, Australia’s highest against India, the much-hyped top order of Men in Blue failed to click with skipper Virat Kohli (21), Shreyas Iyer (2) and KL Rahul (12) falling in quick successions. There were a few positives in the counter-attacking innings of 90 by Hardik Pandya at number six while senior opener Shikhar Dhawan stood out with a sparkling 74.
It was certainly a top notch batting performance from Australia, but Ravi Shastri & Co must be feeling the absence of a sixth bowling option in a 50-over contest. Pandya, who normally does the job, did not bowl in the IPL and it’s unlikely that the team management will push him into it in the next few games.
Meanwhile, a bit of a dampener from the winners’ camp is that allrounder Marcus Stoinis may be a doubtful starter for the second ODI against India on Sunday as he picked up a side injury. Stoinis left the field two balls into his seventh over, and although Australia called the decision not to bring him back out precautionary, Stoinis is set to have a scan on Friday night.
Cameron Green, the Western Australia allrounder, could come in as a replacement for Stoinis. Green was picked largely on the back of his first-class record, with his List A numbers being more modest.
All-rounders Moises Henriques, Ashton Agar and Sean Abbott are the other options for Australia for the second ODI on Sunday.